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Review

Bridging love and despair

Ilaiyaraja touches this painful story with a poignant song that he sings himself

Sethu
Vignesh Raag Audio
Rs 44






In most parts of south India, this film has come and gone. It made people sit up and take notice of actor Vikram. He portrays a man who loses his mental stability after he loses his love.

Sethu has won Vikram many admirers. His success, in Kamala Hasan's words, was "long overdue". His earlier film Ullasam was an interesting juxtaposition of criminality and middle-class values.

Sethu happens to be Ilaiyaraja's most recent album. He sings Yenge sellum, which philosophically sums up a story of unrequited love. Where does this road lead, asks lyricist Arivamati. The flute weaves in and out softly. Ilaiyaraja's rendering sounds casual now, poignant the next moment, and leads up to a rich orchestra with layers of violins, flutes and a sarod-like instrument. The second interlude is vintage Ilaiyaraja. The kanjira beats a leisurely, deep pattern in the charana. This is the song that holds up the album.

Ilaiyaraja also sings Varthai thavirivittai, a brief, bleak piece about broken promises.

Sethuvukku requests people to vote Sethu as chairman. The interludes are filled with politicians' rhetoric -- they'll promise anything to get votes. Arunmozhi and chorus sing this number set on a tappanguchi beat.

Malai en vethanai begins with limpid piano notes. Unnikrishnan sings the stylish pop-style number with just one Karnatak-style phrase. The interludes continue in pop fashion -- with a steady uncomplicated beat, flute, piano and string section. Parts of the second interlude progress in blues style. At one point Arunmozhi and S N Surender debate love with Unni. There is a female voice with no credit on the confused inlay card which has got its songs all mixed up.

Saranam bhava by Sujata is a brief Sanskrit prayer beginning in raga Kalyani. A subdued drum and bass take up the rhythm a few bars after the voice begins. The string backup is also muted, letting the tune stand out.

Kaana karunkuile by Kovai Kamala is a boisterous tappanguchi number. This is one of the better tracks, with strong beats played by real instruments. Kamala's voice is robust and almost masculine, and represents a true style that's hard to come by.

Chikkatha chitronru is a light-hearted number by Unnikrishnan, Arunmozhi and S N Surendar about love and longing as understood by a teenager.

This album does not have the grandeur of Hey Ram, nor does it boast inspired tunes. Yet, at least one song, Yenge sellum, stands out for what it strives to convey -- a certain poignancy that comes with love and longing, an emotion that seems to have vanished from the repertoire of every post-liberalisation composer in India!

S Suchitra Lata



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